Calling violence in Baltimore “out of control,” Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered 30 agency heads to meet every morning at police headquarters and to make crime reduction the top mission not only of police, but also of health workers, housing officials and public works crews, the Baltimore Sun reports. The mayor ordered the directors of more than half of the city’s 55 departments to report to meetings daily at 8 a.m., when they will plan with Police Commissioner Kevin Davis where weeds should be cut, lead paint covered and drug houses boarded up and job applications can be handed out, among other tasks.
“Violence in the city is out of control,” Pugh said. “I want every neighborhood to know I am extremely concerned and focused on reducing violence.” Baltimore killings have surged past 300 for a third year in a row. Violent crime is up 13 percent over last year, and reports of groups of youths attacking people apparently at random have dominated local news cycles. Pugh asked businesses and philanthropies to help fund a $10 million expansion of the anti-violence Safe Streets program. She extended hours at six recreation centers to try to keep young people out of harm’s way. City Councilman Brandon Scott, chairman of the public safety committee, was pleased with the mayor’s approach. He said addressing broken street lights, vacant buildings and other problems can help cut down on crime. Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis decried a “broken juvenile justice system,” in which judges, prosecutors, parents and other guardians are failing the young people in their care and the city at large. “We need to all look ourselves in the mirror as a community of parents, grandparents, guardians in particular, and get ahold of these violent kids who are wreaking havoc in our city right now,” he said.